Set in ancient India and pitched as an experience that is “infused with Hindu and Balinese mythology,” Raji: An Ancient Epic welcomingly opens a window to a culture that many will likely know little about. The preserver god Vishnu and goddess of war Durga narrate your journey, with wall paintings and shadow puppetry also used in a commendable effort to educate the player about the religious context that surrounds this action-adventure game.
Humanity has once become caught in an eternal war that has flared up between gods and demons. With the human race threatened with extinction, the gods choose Raji as their sole defender who must rise up to vanquish the great lord of demons, Mahabalasura. To make matters worse, the demons are kidnapping young children from their homes and Raji must rescue her brother Golu from their dark machinations.
Developer Nodding Heads Games’ greatest success comes in the game’s combat system. There are four weapons that you will be able to wield throughout the course of your adventure: Trishul, a versatile weapon gifted by Durga; Sharanga, an ancient bow crafted by Vishwakarma; Nandaka and Srivatsa, divine weapons blessed by Vishnu; and the Sudarshan Chakra, a divine disc that follows the heart of its wielder.
You won’t have an equal amount of time to use them all, but each weapon allows for a distinctly different approach to defeat the demons that confront Raji as she sets out on her quest. Where the Trishul will lock you toe-to-toe with your enemies, the Sharanga lets you steadily deal damage at a safe distance while the Nandaka and Srivatsa offer a balanced approach and, more significantly, the chance to block incoming attacks.
Thanks to Raji’s skill as an acrobat, there is a great fluidity to the game’s combat. Evasive rolls can be chained into a flourishing upward leap that propels you out of harm’s way while performing a backflip off walls or columns lets you unleash particularly devastating attacks that deal damage over a wide area.
Where Raji: An Ancient Epic fumbles is in delivering enough of a memorable experience outside of these battle encounters. From leaping across crumbling pillars, creating giant lily pads to safely traverse water to clambering up wooden trunks, the platforming lacks precision to the point that I often made Raji tumble to her death without ever feeling like it was my fault.
The puzzles, too, lack challenge. Mandala simply task you to rotate circles to align a picture to reveal a vision of Raji’s past, an idea that’s riffed into another when challenged to awkwardly re-align totems etched with gruesome faces. Neither really succeed, even if the transformative change to the environment after the totem’s completion is readily enchanting.
Raji: An Ancient Epic isn’t without its technical problems, either. Aside from an inconsistent framerate that needs more optimisation on Nintendo Switch, there were times when my character was left loitering outside a combat area and another when I was forced to respawn straight after a cutscene. Even the control layout on the options screen is inaccurate.
Raji: An Ancient Epic stands apart from its competition thanks to the game’s mythological exploration, but the unpolished state that it has arrived in detracts from its clear successes. Even if it doesn’t wholeheartedly deliver on its potential, there’s still much to admire from the adventure looking back from its conclusion.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by Super.com